New Technology Could Engineer the Perfect Baseball Swing

Although many people use motion capture technology to analyze sports movements, this research takes a different approach.  In short, it analyzes the baseball bat trajectory and information which abstracts the persons movement to only the end effector.

Source CBSSport and Mashable

What if a baseball coach could truly determine what a player must do to hit the ball out of the park? New technology is underway that fuses physics and real-time data to help develop the perfect swing.

The University of Michigan has been working on a small device that looks at the entire three-dimensional motion of the bat as you swing, and measures reaction time, speed and control.

“We can report the metrics of a swing that are of great interest to players, coaches and recruiters, such as the bat speed at ball impact, the batter’s reaction time, whether the swing is level or exhibits any upper cut or chop, the entire path of the batter’s hands during the swing, the bat’s swing plane and much more,” Noel Perkins, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan, told Mashable.

“Feeding that information immediately back to the coach and player accelerates training and improvement. It takes the guesswork out of knowing if your swing is improving or not,” he added.

Progress can also be tracked, from minute to minute or month to month.


Here’s how it works: a tiny, flat device with wireless sensors is tacked to the bottom of a baseball bat. It measures the acceleration of a point and the rotation rate, and transmits the data remotely, which is converted into visuals. For example, it would reveal if a swing had a bit of an upper cut and how that angle relates to velocity — all at a rate not typically seen with the naked eye. The collected data can be digested on a variety of platforms, from computers to tablets.

The concept emerged when Perkins developed an interest in fly fishing and became frustrated with learning to cast a fly rod. Although he read books on fly casting, took lessons and watched countless videos, he still couldn’t get it right.

“I wanted to actually measure the motion of a fly rod and to use those measurements to understand what experts do well and what beginners (like me) do poorly,” he said. “I learned a ton and, in addition to improving my skill in fly casting, I launched a research program at the University of Michigan with a focus on sport and athlete training.”

So could Major League Baseball (MLB) use this technology in the future?

“It would certainly be of interest to any team from the MLB to Little League to help train better batters,” Perkins said. “It might also be of interest to individual players (and parents) who are trying to improve on their own or between sessions with batting coaches.”



The commercialization of the technology for baseball and software is currently in development with the university’s partner Diamond Kinetics, a Pittsburgh-based startup. The research conducted has been sponsored by two leading bat manufactures, and its early prototypes have been used and evaluated by both companies and have had contact with MLB.

The University of Michigan has already partnered (via license agreements) with a number of entities to commercialize this technology for certain sports.

“Some of these are already on the market, while others are still being developed. We field inquiries all the time, from other sporting industries too, such as tennis, golf and bowling,” Perkins said.

The good news is that the product is cheap to produce — estimates for production costs are as low as $30 for enabling the sensor hardware.

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